Practical learning: achieving excellence in the human services

January 23-25 2008 Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Digital literacies for human service practitioners: learning, knowing & networking in the 21st century

Keywords: digital literacy, information literacy, media literacy, knowledge management

Authors: Ellen Daly (IRISS); Neil Ballantyne (IRISS)

In the modern world all human service professionals - practitioners, managers, and educators - are confronted with increasingly complex, and fluid practice and organizational dynamics that challenge their knowledge and skills. In this context continuing professional learning is no longer an option, it is a necessity. Whilst formal, campus-based, educational programmes of study continue to have a place, the accelerating pace of change and need for rapid access to new knowledge requires a different solution.
Networked information and communications technologies - including the Internet, specialist e-libraries, and digital learning object repositories - have all been advocated as potential solutions to the problem of access to knowledge and information. However, this paper will argue, technical access to new digital tools and technologies is not enough. Human service practitioners, managers and educators also need digital literacy to empower them to access, interpret, construct and contribute information and knowledge in digital formats. We will contend that digital literacy is about more than technical competence in accessing content, but also about critical thinking, critical evaluation, and the creative co-construction of new knowledge within connected communities of practice.

Since it touches on technological change and the new capabilities required of human service workers to access, evaluate and contribute information and knowledge in digital formats this paper will be relevant to practitioners, managers and educators from any human service organisation. It will describe new digital literacies and explore why they are required. It will consider how human services organisations might support staff in becoming digitally literate. It will conclude by reflecting on the benefits for users of human services of a digitally literate human services workforce.

Date: Friday 25 January 2008, 2.00-2.30

Venue: Carrick Two

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Organised by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services in association with PEPE (Practical Experiences in Professional Education).